Dexter Cousins on Fintech Insider podcast

The rise of Australian digital banking.

Our good friends at 11:FS kindly invited Dexter Cousins on Fintech Insider Podcast. We think it is a pretty special show , especially as the focus is on Australian Fintech.

Simon Taylor heads up a great panel of guests to talk all about digital banking in the Asia Pacific region. With a special focus on Australia, we take a look at how far the industry has come, competition from Australia’s ‘big four’ incumbents, and what the future holds for digital banks in the region.

Dexter is joined by fellow guests

  • Van Le – Co-Founder, Xinja Bank
  • Stuart Houston – Financial Services Industry Lead, Google Cloud

Launch of Fintech advisor service

Tier One People launch Fintech advisor service to give founders the support they need, when they need it most. 

Getting the wrong people on board can be fatal for any startup.

Access to the right people, investors and partners is the biggest challenge facing any founder.

And hiring is also the one challenge most founders are least equipped for. 

When we interviewed 300 plus founders, less than 1% have a background in HR, talent or recruitment.

And of the 300 plus Fintech we have assessed, fewer than 10% have any HR expertise in their business sub 30 people.

Yet over 90% of founders stated finding the right people was their number one challenge. And more than 50% said bad hiring decisions had set the business back.

Recruitment agencies aren’t set up for startups.

The traditional recruitment model is too expensive for startups. We’ve seen so many startups waste valuable capital on recruiter fees.

The results of using a recruiter are mostly underwhelming and we only ever advise clients to use specialist recruiters for specialist roles. We believe startups should do as much hiring as they can themselves.

Here’s the big problem though. Hiring is complex, yet most founders think it is easy, until it’s too late and they have made some really bad hiring decisions.

It only takes one bad hire to ruin the culture.

The reverse is also true. On rockstar hire can be the catalyst to hiring an all-star team, without getting a recruiter involved.

We believe the solution to helping founders scale doesn’t lie in us filling jobs, but in offering our support, expertise and guidance throughout the growth journey.

So, due to demand from the Fintech community we offer a far more affordable solution to using recruitment firms with the launch of our Advisory Service.

How much faster could you grow your business if you had access to the right people?

Tier One People’s Fintech advisor service gives founders the support they need, when they need it most. 

It’s been designed to help founders navigate the early stages of growth, from seed round to series B.

On an affordable monthly subscription model, founders get access to all of the experience and expertise we’ve built in helping FIntech scale effectively. 

Clients also get to tap into one of the most comprehensive networks in Fintech. We’ll connect you in to the right partners, advisors and investors.

Plus we’ll promote your business on the the FinTech Australia Podcast that is listened to by execs from banks, financial institutions and investors from Australia, UK, US and Asia.

One client recently saved $150,000 with just a 30-minute phone call!

Schedule an initial chat and find out how we can help you scale affordably.

New look for the leaders in Fintech executive search

We’ve changed!

Have you noticed the new Tier One People logo and branding?

When we launched in 2016 we really didn’t know if the business would be a success or if Fintech would even become a viable industry. 

Tier One People is now firmly established as leaders in Fintech executive search. 

And Fintech is here to stay, entering into an exciting new era. So now’s the time for us to ditch the question mark logo! 

In its place is a logo and brand we feel better reflects everything we stand for.

The new logo represents our community and network.

The triangle is symbolic of the calibre of our network. The pinnacle or top ‘Tier’ of talent and companies in Fintech.

The circle represents ‘one’ 

And the circle and square together resemble a ‘stand-out’ or unique person.

We went with different shapes to represent the diversity of ‘people’ in the TOP community.

Great people come in all shapes and sizes!

And the look?

The new colours are persian indigo and byzantine (or blue and pink.)

Pink features prominently in the logo and on the new website as 43% of hires we’ve made so far are females.

We wanted to portray simplicity and precision – as that is how we like to go about business.

There’s also a subtle retro 80’s silicon valley homage.

This is deliberate, as we feel Fintech is at the beginning of something huge. A period of unprecedented innovation and change similar to Silicon Valley in the 1980’s.

We sincerely hope the new brand resonates with you.

You can check out our new website

Helping Fintech Scale Not Fail

“Whenever we hired tech talent with payments or Fintech experience, they would charge us a premium. Where as you go to India and you have Mastercard, Visa, many of the European Banks and many international Fintech giants with large development teams. The reality is we can offer clients people with 10-15 years experience at Mastercard at a fraction of the cost.”

Simon Lee – Patona

Tier One People Announce An Exciting Partnership with Patona.

Tier One People has partnered with Patona Technologies to offer an affordable tech talent solution, helping Fintech scale not fail. Patona provides highly experienced and skilled tech talent at a fraction of the cost associated with hiring in Australia.

Starting life as a bootstrapped startup, Patona saw amazing success by running the majority of its business from India with minimal investment. Patona now has over 100 staff developing, supporting and scaling Fintech across Australia.

Tier One People is proud to partner with Patona, helping our clients scale affordably. At such a mission-critical time for the industry, we feel cutting costs is essential to keep Fintech innovation alive in Australia.

Managing Partner at Patona is Simon Lee, Co-Founder of Assembly Payments. Simon has built several tech companies and has raised over $70m during his time as a founder. Dexter Cousins interviewed Simon for the FinTech Australia Podcast recently.

Simon Lee On The FinTech Australia Podcast.

“When I was running Assembly, if we hired tech talent with Fintech experience, they would charge us a premium. You go to India and there’s Mastercard, Visa, many of the European Banks and many international Fintech giants. All of them with large development teams of highly skilled and educated people. The reality is Patona offers clients talent with 10-15 years experience at Mastercard at a fraction of the cost for someone in Australia with 3 years experience. The talent we have working for us at Patona have built apps and platforms at scale, several times over.”

Shared Mission and Vision.

Tier One People and Patona share the same values and vision for Fintech in Australia. We want to see Fintech scale, not fail.

A Fintech leaders no1 challenge is people and the unsustainable salaries demanded by Mid-Snr level tech talent. Candidates with a few years experience demand higher salaries than a founder. Even if a startup can hire overseas talent, people quickly raise their salary expectations once they have minimal experience in the local market.

As an example, we approached a senior architect who wanted $250,000 pa to leave their current role, 12 months ago they wanted $120,000. We don’t believe offering skilled migrant Visas is a viable solution right now due to COVID. And we question if it is a long term solution, especially when we see remote working so well for all of our clients.

Helping Fintech Scale Not Fail.

What Fintech founders in Australia have achieved so far is nothing short of remarkable given the challenges and costs of securing highly experienced tech talent. We believe that by utilising high quality, highly experienced, low-cost outsourced tech talent more Fintech jobs will be created onshore. Put simply we expect this solution will see more Fintech’s scale and fewer Fintech’s fail.

Australian entrepreneurs are not short of ideas, attitude, drive or intelligence. But they do face tougher challenges around access to talent, capital and local economics that make success more difficult to attain than their UK or US counterparts.

Enabling founders to focus on execution and not on raising capital should result in an increase of early-stage Fintech scaling and building sustainable businesses. Without the need to keep raising equity and diluting their ownership.

Tier One People has tried many different service models and pricing structures to make hiring developers and tech talent more affordable. But we simply can not come up with a better, more affordable recruitment solution than Patona. It makes perfect sense for us to partner with them and offer our clients a much faster and affordable path to growth.

To discuss how we can help you scale affordably …..

Anthony Thomson, 86 400 – Exclusive interview

“In 2012 there was another seismic shift in the data I had spent 30 years reviewing. Going digital had truly arrived. People wanted to be completely mobile. This led to the launch of Atom Bank in the UK.”

anthony thomson, chairman 86 400

Anthony Thompson is co-founder and chairman of 86 400, Australia’s first smart bank. His impressive resume includes founder and chairman of Atom Bank the UK’s first mobile bank and, Metro bank in the UK, Anthony is one of the world’s leading pioneers in digital banking.

Could you tell us a little bit more about 86 400?

86400 is Australia’s first smart bank built with open banking in mind. The simple premise is the ability for the consumer to pull all of their bank accounts, credit cards, and payment services into one easy app. This allows customers to take full control of their money using data analysis.

What are your thoughts about the future of banking in the era of open banking?

There are a few interesting elements to this. Firstly the pace of development and rhythm at which banks will have to operate. We are lucky enough to have an incredibly strong team of people at 86 400. There is a mix of approximately half engineers and technical people and half traditional bankers. You need that mix of people to gain momentum in a digital bank, which by nature requires a fast rate of technology deployment.

Secondly, the use of an agile framework is essential, especially in a digital-only bank. Everything that underpins open banking should be about the consumer. How do you give the customer a better product/service/experience? The era of open banking should allow us to do that.

Our experience in the UK tells us the big banks think differently about open banking. Banks feel they have nothing to gain and everything to lose, which has resulted in them dragging their heels. The introduction of open banking to its fullest extent in the UK has been hampered by this. We are seeing a similar trend here in Australia. When open banking is fully integrated into Australia, I think it will be good for the consumer. The banks who choose to put the consumer first by using the technology available that underpins open banking should be in a great position.


86400 is a fully licensed bank with mortgage and lending products in your first year. How you have managed to achieve so much in your first 12 months?

We have just over 100 staff in Australia. When we show people around our CBD offices they are impressed that we have a fully functioning multi-product bank operating out of one floor. When COVID-19 hit, we were able to operate the entire bank seamlessly, without a single person working in the office using modern technology. Running a bank remotely three or four years ago would not have been possible.

Cuscal as our founding shareholder for 86400 has put us in an incredibly fortunate position. For those not aware, Cuscal is the largest independent provider of payment services here in Australia. Cuscal has provided us with the capital and resources, which enabled us to get off to a tremendous start. From this, we have been able to assemble a great team and focus on growing the bank without the monumental task of raising capital.

From my own experience of capital raising, which has been about a billion dollars over the last 11 years, it can be a real distraction to the management team. Having the ability to focus purely on the bank, gave us a great advantage in the Australian market.

Many traditional bankers question the neo bank model especially profitability. What are your thoughts?

I passionately believe that profit is a by-product of delivering what the customer wants. By providing a better service and experience for your customers, and managing your business well, you should be profitable.

Profit is very important to businesses. It is essential to pay the people who provide the risk capital. This in turn provides the resources, meaning growth. You can then pay the staff who work in your business. The end goal should always be doing something well for the customer.

The challenge of starting a new bank is that it is capital consumptive. Banks traditionally require lots of capital. Banks seem to more frequently go back to their shareholders with the ‘we’re doing well, we’re growing fast, give us some more money’, something which is different in other businesses. The capital intensive nature of banks has tended to make them a little more difficult than some of the non or lesser regulated FinTech.

Could you share with us your history and how you ended up running not just one, but multiple banks during your career?

My background is in marketing, not banking. Marketing is about looking at data, seeing an opportunity, and seizing that opportunity to develop a business. In 2007 when I first had the idea for Metro Bank I spent a long time carrying out research. The data all pointed to one thing, customers wanted value. The measure of this for High Street banks equated to one thing, Price. When you start digging into the consumers’ response to “value” it meant more than just price. Customers valued service, convenience, trust, and transparency as well as price.

I saw a real opportunity to create a bank focused on all these elements. In 2012 there was another seismic shift in the data I had spent 30 years reviewing. Going digital had truly arrived. People wanted to be completely mobile. This led to the launch of Atom Bank in the UK.

My foray into the Australian market was championed by my wife a few years ago who liked the idea of a move to Australia. Luckily, she intended to come with me, not just pack me off!

I started researching the market and visited from the UK 16 times within 18 months. There was a great opportunity to create a digital bank here in Australia, with all of it’s similarities to the UK. When I met with the Managing Director of Cuscal, he had a very clear vision of what they wanted to achieve. Cuscal had never built a bank and I had been around the block a couple of times before with Metro and Atom. The idea of us working together was a great marriage of our respective skills, experience, and expertise.

What can traditional banks do to regain the trust of customers?

My former partner in Metro bank was once asked a similar question at a conference. He is a well-known face and is recognisable for carrying his little Yorkshire Terrier with him everywhere. The question posed was:

“If we kidnap your dog, and don’t give him back until you restore the trust in ” BIG BANK” (they named a big American bank). What would you do?

He paused for a moment and said “I guess my dog is dead”.

Restoring trust is an incredibly difficult challenge. I co-authored a book on the marketing of money last year, called No Small Change, which looked at the marketing of financial services in general, banks in particular. There was one conundrum we heavily researched which didn’t make sense.

Consumer groups regularly say customers don’t trust the big banks. On the flip side, big banks counter this argument with lots of their research saying customers do trust us. How can this be? One of them has to be wrong.

When we dug deeper (and we enlisted the help of a UCL professor) we found out they were both right. There are two types of trust. Cognitive and Associative. They are broken down as follow:

‘Do I trust my big bank to have the salary that I paid into my account on Thursday still in my account on Monday?’ YES
‘Do I trust my big bank to pay my mortgage by direct debit on the 23rd of the month?’

These are both cognitive trust, which is based on their competence.

On the other side of the trust scale, we have;

‘Do I trust my big bank, to put my interests first? The resounding answer to this question is ‘No, I bloody don’t’. This is associative trust.

Whilst we trust the competency of big banks we don’t feel they have the best interests of the customer first. The real opportunity for new banks, like 86 400, is for us to demonstrate to our customers that we genuinely do put them first.

Hard to believe that Newcastle upon Tyne is like the projects in LA but we did share a lot of similarities.

Anthony Thomson 86 400

Why did you chose 86 400 as a name for the bank?

86 400 is actually the number of seconds in a day. We feel it’s a great because we are all obsessed with helping Australians feel in control of their money, every second of every minute of every day.

When an idea for a business comes to mind I often apply an old marketing trick. Give your business human traits and qualities. I carried out this exercise when I had the idea for Atom Bank. What would the personality of our business look like? I sat at home in Somerset mulling over this question with a glass of wine.

I thought if Atom Bank were a person it would be someone who lives their life digitally. Someone who understands social media, and gets the psyche of our target market ‘the millennial’. I suddenly had this image of I googled his name and suddenly I had a whole lot of info on him. Whilst his music is the thing he is most known for, he also has a huge AI business, employing hundreds of people across three continents. I was amazed to find out he is a tech entrepreneur.

To cut the story short, I contacted him, he liked the idea. He joined Atom as an advisor to the board and became a shareholder. It turns out we came from similar backgrounds. Hard to believe that Newcastle upon Tyne is like the projects in LA but we did share a lot of similarities. We remain friends, even though I am no longer involved in Atom Bank.

What are your thoughts on Australia as a FinTech hub?

I see several really exciting hubs around the world. Singapore, Shenzhen, California, New York, London, and incredibly the northeast of England. They all have great FinTech hubs. I believe it is more mindset, not geography that is the driving force. When you get young, hard-working, bright, people who are determined to make a success of ideas. Together they become greater than the sum of the parts, over time I believe the work being done on these hubs will be world-changing.

Finally, any plans to go back to the UK, or is Australia home for you?

Well, I think it is a question whether the Australian government would keep me! Certainly, my wife and I love living here, but there are lots of exciting places on the planet.

Gareth Gumbley – Frollo

“I just sat there one day back in 2015, with a piece of paper at the dining room table and thought there has to be a better way of doing this. There has to be a more fun way of getting people engaged in finances. From this Frollo was born”

Gareth Gumbley, CEO of Frollo is behind the quest to help Australians feel good about money. Using the power of technology and community, Frollo enables clients to build their own unique customer journeys and value propositions.

As the first FinTech in Australia to become an accredited data recipient in open banking, Follo is leading the way towards a more transparent financial sector for all Australians.

Could you share more about what Frollo do? 

Frollo is a purpose driven FinTech on a quest to help people feel good about money. We’ve built a really simple to implement technology to help businesses, their customers and employees to turn around their finances. We do all this using their own bank data. 

Frollo as a business, is essentially two parts. We have a consumer app, with over 110,000 consumers, where we test and learn with our technology. In addition we work with Neo banks, traditional banks, fintechs, lenders, or employers to leverage our b2b SaaS platform and open banking solutions. 

This is where they use white label apps or choose to integrate our API’s into their existing mobile apps/lending processes. We help them fast track new solutions to improve people’s financial well being or innovate banking experiences.

Could you tell us about your recent achievements in CDR? 

Frollo were the first Australian FinTech to become accredited under the CDR at the unrestricted level. In layman’s terms, this means we can use bank, utility and telco data. On Saturday 27th June 2020 at 5.35pm we officially provided a consumer provided consent which allowed us to collect bank data from one of the big four banks. It felt like being the first FinTech on the moon!

Everybody has been sitting on the sidelines waiting with bated breath for CDR to really get rolling and it was amazing to see it in action. It’s pretty exciting for the team to finally get there. There has been a tremendous effort with ACCC and Data 61 to navigate rules and standards to get us to where we are today, it’s been a phenomenal journey.

It is pretty critical in the process to make sure we uphold to protect consumer data above all else. A lot of time and energy has gone into making sure that the app is adhering to ACCC standards. This includes the screens and the language we use to get consent, making sure the consumer is aware of what they are agreeing to. Once the data is inside our environment we needed to make sure it was safe. From here we can then gain insights and give the consumer a better picture of their finances. The new app is now live and consumers will see the immediate benefit. 

“I think I’ve probably made all my mistakes along the way, as I’ve matured”

What do you see as the opportunities for Frollo as CDR goes live? 

We’ve been working in the space of helping consumers feel good about money for the last three years. Frollo has three key journeys we want to take our consumers on. Firstly, helping people identify ways they can save their money. The second is to debt reduction, especially in today’s credit driven society. Lastly, purely a case of tracking our expenses so we can become more literate in managing our daily money. 

The beauty of CDR is being able to link product API data with consumer transaction data. We’re able to see how they’re using the financial products and whether it’s best suited for them, or whether there are better deals out there.

How did you get the idea for Frollo?

With 15 years working in payments and consumer finance, I’m an old dog in the land of FinTech. I became interested in understanding how consumers manage their finances, including moving money and making payments. I felt there was an opportunity to help people borrow money in a better way. Whilst lending people money to fix an unforeseen problem, like a broken down car, might seem like a solution in the short term, it is really just a quick fix. It doesn’t go to the heart of the problem. We need to engage people in their finances earlier. 

There was nothing there, like a Fitbit or Strava for finance to help people understand ways they could be in a better financial position. PSD2 was on the radar, open banking was a conversation, the whole world of digital payments was happening, but there was nothing that really filled the void. 

I just sat there one day back in 2015, with a piece of paper at the dining room table and thought there has to be a better way of doing this. There has to be a more fun way of getting people engaged in finances.  Frollo was born out of this.

Could you give me a snapshot of Frollo today, and what are the plans for next few years?

We’ve got just over 30 people in the business made up of developers, product management, sales and data scientists. Data is probably the biggest skill set explosion in our team. The business is consistently growing our revenues year on year for the last three years, over 300% revenue growth in the last couple of years. Frollo was initially self-funded. Since then we’ve completed three small, private funding rounds. 

Our focus for now is Australia, but we are constantly exploring partnership opportunities to open up new markets. Our current partnerships include Virgin Money and Volt Bank. We are noticing an increasing number of Neo lenders, Tier 2 banks and some FinTechs are starting to engage our services. I feel our success is partly down to bringing capital in from people we like and know.  We are focused on building a business that is sustainable for the long haul.

What is your approach to the culture you’re building at Frollo?

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to run a number of other small businesses that accelerated and scaled really quickly. The benefit being I could decide what was important when I designed my blueprint for Frollo.

One of the key things was making sure the business had a really strong purpose. Being clear about what were we trying to achieve.  Authenticity in how we engage and interact with staff and our partners. So, everyone who meets Frollo believes we’re purpose driven, we care and we want to make a difference. 

Frollo as a business is very innovative and passionate, this plays a big part in helping attract talent. We were lucky to onboard high performing talent with energy who we already knew. They set the benchmark and in turn brought their friends and their friends brought their friends. We’ve really done pretty well at bringing together a nucleus of staff who helped build a solid culture. We’ve managed to maintain this as we’ve grown and navigated Covid.

We’ve been fortunate to hire some incredible software developers.  We’ve got 15 or 16 nationalities across our staff of thirty. Our willingness to onboard an app developer who worked on the number one app in Nepal, absolutely gives them the credibility to be working on an app in Australia. I guess the enthusiasm to bring talent in and bring good people in, has enabled us to build a pretty high performing team.

What are your tips to find other ways of bringing in good people when the market is constantly decrying “there is no talent”?

Be brave and have courage in both the people you’re hiring and yourself. We took a risk by taking people who had experience in other markets, but not in Australia. We looked for people in other disciplines or industries and see if they were able to apply their skills to our organisation. Our part was to provide the coaching, support, onboarding and nurturing. We gave them time to come up to speed, which is not something companies give these days.  Our patience paid off and we started to see the benefits our teams really flourished. 

‘The average Australian today probably spends $1,000 a year in the lazy tax”

Gareth Gumbley Frollo

What does the next 12 months look like for Frollo? 

Our focus is going to be helping other organisations develop use cases around CDR. We’ve purposely built our apps and our API’s to enable others to fast track on to CDR. You can apply to become an ADR today and then immediately outsource most of the technical and process capabilities and components to Frollo.

We can really accelerate the number of organisations that get accredited in ADR and are able to leverage CDR data. This is really where we want to see our focus over the next 12 months. 

How do you think the average consumer will benefit from CDR? 

We’re hoping our consumer app will enables us to prove out those use cases to show ACCC, Government and industry there are ways and opportunities to help consumers. They may never know they’re using CDR or open banking, but what they do know is there is a better way of looking after, moving their money and a better way to experience financial products. They’re just not aware they could be on better deals or products more suited to their lifestyle. There’s a tremendous opportunity to build financial literacy and well being. If we know where our money goes, how much we’ve got and that we’ve got enough to pay the bills it considerably eases our stress levels.

How quickly do you think we’ll see the interaction with CDR here is Australia?

I think we’ll continue to enjoy CDR and the benefits it brings. I think all of us are frustrated its not quite moving fast enough. The UK is a good example. They witnessed a tenfold increase in the number of API requests over the last 12 months. These things take time to build out, it’s incredibly complex but I think the next few months will be exciting. Then we’ll start to see innovations really come into the market as we go into 2021.

Matt Baxby Revolut Podcast

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